The Ayurvedic Guide to Summer Eating
There are beers and barbecues. Dripping ice cream cones. Beaches, gauzy sun dresses, and bare bodies. If there ever were a season to want to feel great in your skin—while staying strong against all the temptations—it's summer. We get it. And fortunately so does Ayurveda. This 5000-year system of medicine has created the perfect summer eating plan full of ancient wisdom to keep nutrition high. No matter how much you're traveling, working, lounging, or playing this summer, this simple, grounded guide will keep you feeling and looking great through Labor Day—and beyond.
Ayurveda recommends really listening to your body. When it comes to nutrition and diet, that means considering all the qualities of the food and the sensations it evokes: the taste; heaviness or lightness; intrinsic heat- or coolness-producing elements; oiliness or dryness; liquid or solid qualities. These are all elements to take in account in order to eat optimally every season. Then listen to what your body yearns for across those qualities. Take a minute to think about that: What are you craving? What would feel and taste good right now? A juicy, sweet peach? A warming bowl of rice? There is information here. Listen to it.
It's also paramount to listen to when your body is feeling hungry. We're programmed to think we must eat at specific times every day, but really, this is counterintuitive and goes against Ayurvedic wisdom. The body knows best when it needs sustenance. This may require breaking out of your eating routine—but trust us, it's worth it.
Follow the Seasons
Ayurveda puts the quality (this includes freshness) and seasonality of food paramount. A freshly prepared meal full of in-season vegetables and fresh herbs is so much more fulfilling, and it makes our bodies feel more energetic. Plant optimally thrive and are at their nutritional peak during certain seasons, according to Ayurveda, which means they're the most nutritious. So, at all costs, ditch microwaving leftovers or a frozen meal and eat fresh, local, seasonal foods.
Eat Clean—and Give Your Food Your Attention
This is one of the hardest to follow: Try just eating when you're eating. No phones, no computers, no catching up on Game of Thrones. Allow yourself to be present with your food and your thoughts. Ayurveda guides that the amount of food consumed at a meal should be equivalent to two handfuls of food. (If we're distracted this gets thrown out the window.) And while avoiding large consumption of liquids during a meal, it is recommended to sip water between bites. Avoid sugary fruit juices or sodas. When you finish your meal, your stomach should roughly feel like it's a third full of food, a third of water, and a third of air.
Another Ayurvedic tip: Steer clear of foods that are considered incompatible when eaten together. This means that certain foods combined are believed to cause poor absorption and clogging, and can lead to toxin generation in the gut. So, when possible, avoid the following combinations: fish and milk; meat and milk; yogurt and beef. Also, most melons should be eaten alone.
Lower the Heat
The Pitta dosha dominates during summer. (Pitta is associated with fire and water and it directs digestion, metabolism, and the production of energy.) To mollify the aggressive pitta of the summer, start by avoiding hot, spicy, or pungent foods, which typically aggravate pitta). Try to avoid sour fruits such as green grapes, sour plums, and grapefruit—but do eat sweet fruits like apples, avocados, dark grapes, and sweet pineapples. Try to avoid beets, carrots, and eggplants—but do load up on asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, and green peppers. Among grains and animal foods, gravitate towards barley, basmati or white rice, white meat (like chicken or turkey), and egg whites. Try to avoid corn, millet, dry oats, beef, lamb, egg yolks, and seafood.